The Gunman - Sean, Justine Trinca

‘For someone who doesn’t want to do this shit anymore your kill ratio is pretty high.’

Sean Penn’s penitent ex-mercenary has turned his back on a career of dodgy covert ops in favour of do-gooding and is now digging wells in Africa rather than drilling holes in inconvenient Third World politicians, but when the past catches up with him he proves to be in lethally good nick in globetrotting action thriller The Gunman.

The remarkably buff Penn shows off his muscles as well as his social conscience (shirtless, his forearms look as brawny as Popeye’s), but with Taken director Pierre Morel at the helm it’s hardly surprising that the action sequences should be more persuasive than the soul searching.

There’s a blistering shootout in a Spanish villa, where Penn attempts to fend off the squad of heavily armed hitmen who have tracked him down to the plush home shared by his ex-girlfriend (Justine Trinca) and his ex-partner-in-crime (Javier Bardem).

But the script – co-written by Penn – spoils things by falling back on tired clichés time and again, most egregiously at the film’s climax, which takes place against the backdrop of a bullfight in Barcelona and intercuts the final showdown between hero and villains with the gory action inside the ring.

Stay for the credits, though, and you’ll spot the filmmakers’ sheepish admission that bullfighting has been banned in Barcelona since 2011.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 115 mins. Director Pierre Morel.

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